While the US opened up to most of the world just in November, implementing new testing guidelines and vaccine requirements instead of a ban, there are already changes coming, in light of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV2 being detected earlier on in late November 2021. These requirements will affect everyone arriving in the US, so take note.
New US Requirements for testing
The Biden administration has announced an outline of new policies to “Protect Americans Against the Delta and Omicron Variants as We Battle COVID-19 this Winter.” While there are many domestic policies, including an extension of the federal mask mandate in the announcement, the actions also mention new testing rules around international travel into the USA from around the globe.
The announcement reads,
Strengthening global pre-departure testing protocols: Early next week, the United States will tighten pre-departure testing protocols by requiring all inbound international travellers to test within one day of departure globally, regardless of nationality or vaccination status. This tighter testing timeline provides an added degree of public health protection as scientists continue to assess the Omicron variant.
What this translates into is:
- Regardless of their nationality or vaccination status, everyone arriving in the USA will need to be tested for Covid-19 before departure.
- The test will be now conducted within one day of the travel to the United States, instead of the earlier three days, which was permitted for vaccinated travellers.
Note that testing for the US needs to be done in terms of calendar days before departure rather than the norm of hours before the scheduled departure time. So, for instance, for a flight departing at 1:05 AM on December 10, your test will need to be completed on December 09, and for a flight departing at 11:50 PM on December 15, your test will need to be completed on December 14.
Also, these don’t need to be RT-PCR tests, but even Rapid Antigen tests qualify, for instance. The CDC has issued a new guideline with a flowchart. The new guideline will go into effect on Monday, December 6, 2021, at 12:01 ET.
Retesting and quarantine are off the table for now
As per our initial report, which was based on WSJ reporting, there was also a discussion about travellers required to get tested 3-5 days after arriving in the US. For now, this discussion has not been included in the final items implemented. Nor is there any mention of the seven-day quarantine requirements on arrival previously being under discussion.
The US testing requirements will move to a T-1 departure testing compared to the current T-3 testing for vaccinated folks next week. This would apply to everyone arriving in the US. While the exact date has been not notified on the CDC website, WSJ states that it would be applicable effective December 6, 12:01 ET.
What do you make of this new testing requirement from the United States?
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